Formalizing the Generalization-Forgetting Trade-off in Continual Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Krishnan Raghavan, Prasanna Balaprakash


We formulate the continual learning (CL) problem via dynamic programming and model the trade-off between catastrophic forgetting and generalization as a two-player sequential game. In this approach, player 1 maximizes the cost due to lack of generalization whereas player 2 minimizes the cost due to catastrophic forgetting. We show theoretically that a balance point between the two players exists for each task and that this point is stable (once the balance is achieved, the two players stay at the balance point). Next, we introduce balanced continual learning (BCL), which is designed to attain balance between generalization and forgetting and empirically demonstrate that BCL is comparable to or better than the state of the art.